An avalanche airbag is something like most – I’ve put off for several years of backcountry use. I was able to come up with every excuse in the book. “Its too expensive,” “The technology isn’t there yet,” “They won’t fit my back nicely,” “The space is too limited with the airbag inside,” blah blah blah. All of those and many more are easily justifiable when something isn’t exactly cheap. I continued to come around to: Whats my life worth? And eventually I decided it’s absolutely worth the money.
Lets breakdown your standard snowboarding backcountry setup (skiing is fairly equivalent):
- Jones splitboard: $879
- Skins: $209
- Bindings: Spark R&D’s $300
- Boots: big range here, but let’s go with $250
- Beacon/probe/shovel kit: $350
- Backpack to hold it all: $200
- Jacket/pants/apparel: This obviously ranges a lot, but let’s go with $500 all said and done.
At these price points you’re already looking right under 3k bucks to get out into the backcountry. Add some training, car fuel and a couple of sandwiches and you’re breaking 3k pretty quick for those fresh turns.
All in all, I’ve spent a large chunk of change over the last couple of years accumulating all the right equipment I need to ride, stay warm/dry, and initiate a rescue if an avalanche did occur. Add an avalanche airbag and that makes the whole package almost $4,000. This may seem very expensive, but I also don’t pay for lift tickets or a season pass as my legs/snowmobile now do all the work.
If I use this equipment for three years without any updates, which is completely feasible, total cost divided by number of days in the backcountry equates to less than the lift tickets or season pass I would be purchasing on a yearly basis.
I had the opportunity to get my hands on the Ortovox Tour 32+7 ABS pack, which retails right at $1k. For the price of my life, I think adding something like this is 100% worth it to anyone even considering going out into the backcountry. With the increasing number of people going into the backcountry everyday its essential that everyone practices safety, but can we really count on the crew of boot packers drinking PBR’s traversing across the open face above?
I’m not saying an airbag backpack is the answer. Because everyone needs to be educated, practice safety, check weather reports, and dig their own snow pits every time they enter this war zone. But does everyone? No, they don’t. So this is a full on backup plan think of an airbag as a “Plan B” and a potential last chance of survival when those guys drinking PBR above you set off an avalanche that comes tumbling down right for you.
Enough about the safety. Lets get into the nitty-gritty. This pack rocks. It fits like nicely like a backpacking backpack, distributes the weight appropriately, has the space of a camera bag, and an easy to operate “eject” button that deploys the airbag in an emergency.
The biggest thing I love about this backpack is the comfort it has on your back. I had it fully loaded down for a day of snowmobiling and it kicked ass. Shifting my weight from side to side on the sled was a breeze and didn’t feel like the pack was even there.
The between the legs strap is barely noticeable and there’s no way in hell the hip belt is coming off on accident and the exterior straps can easily hold a ski setup with ease.
The benefit of a deployable airbag is it makes your mass larger. In an avalanche, the large chunks stay toward the surface and small stuff gets sucked to the bottom. The ABS bags therefore increase your body size and keep you on the surface. In the video below, you see just that.
Ortovox Tour 32+7 ABS Specs:
- Airbag-Inside (M.A.S.S.)
- Locking clasp (hip belt)
- Safety leg strap
- Chest strap with signal whistle
- Locking aluminum clasps
- Snowboard and snowshoe attachment
- Ice axe and hiking pole loops
- Bright Inside
- Water-resistant zipper
- X-Skifix (diagonal or crossed)
- Release protection
- Release grip (Height and angle are adjustable)
- Separate safety compartment
- Helmet net
- Gear loops
- Access to main compartment: front
- Compartment for skins and crampons
- Hip pocket
- Goggle case (cushioned)
- Map compartment